ROME (Reuters) – Naples is set to challenge Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and allow him to enter a ship run by a charity carrying 32 migrants stranded in the troubled Mediterranean, the city's mayor said on Thursday. the city.

His offer adds to the growing challenge of political opponents to the far-right Salvini league, which is committed to banning migrants and making life difficult for those already here.

Italy and Malta refuse to let Sea-Watch 3, a ship operated by a German non-governmental organization (NGO), dock and land the migrants who were rescued off the coast of Libya on 22 December.

Both countries claim to have hosted too many migrants and blame NGO rescue vessels for acting as a taxi service for potential refugees.

The center-left mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, said Salvini played a political role in people's lives.

"Leaving people and children in cold, stormy seas is a crime – not just indecent, immoral and appalling," Magistris told Radio Crc.

"I hope that this boat is approaching the port of Naples because, contrary to what the government says, we will launch a rescue operation and let it enter the port," he said. . "I will be the first to lead the rescue."

Naples is hundreds of kilometers north of the Sea-Watch 3 and the boat did not respond immediately to this offer.

During the night, Malta has left the boat in its waters to get closer to the land where the sea is less agitated, but refuses to let it dock.

Several local opposition party politicians challenged Salvini's anti-migrant policy.

On Wednesday, Leoluca Orlando, mayor of Palermo, the Sicilian capital, said that he would join other cities to ignore a new security law as it removes the protection of asylum for deportation. many migrants.

Salvini Thursday threatened the mayors with lawsuits.

"Anyone who helps illegal migrants hates Italians. They will answer for their actions before the law and in the history books. I will not back down, "Salvini tweeted.

FILE PHOTO: A ferry sails in the port of Naples, Italy, on July 25, 2018. Photo taken on July 25, 2018. REUTERS / Tony Gentile / File Photo

"The Italian ports are closed. We have received too many fake refugees. We have enriched too many smugglers. The mayors of the left should think about the difficulties of their own citizens and not about illegal migrants. "

Upon taking office last year, Salvini blocked the NGO boats and moved to help Libya prevent people from leaving its shores.

Some 12,977 migrants entered Italy in 2018 by boat from Libya, down 87.9 percent from 2017 and 92.85 percent from 2016, according to government data.

Report by Crispian Balmer; Edited by Robin Pomeroy